May 14, 2010

Artwork by Brian Byers

The afternoon sun played through the blues and greens of the peacock in the stained glass window splashing one side of the room in cool colors. The crackling flames from the fireplace on the opposite end of the room cast a soft orange glow warming the other side of the room. Anna stood in the middle where the colors met. She faced the fire, but her eyes were lost in thought, her arms were crossed with her elbows in her hands.

Judy had passed by more than once slowing her gait and peering in as she did but she never stopped. Anna ignored her.

A few minutes later, David came by. He hesitated briefly in the doorway and for half a second it looked as though he might lean against its frame but then he changed his mind, took two steps into the room and leaned against the wall instead. "You're a million miles away Anna, what are you thinking about?" he asked.

Anna blushed then shook her head. "Nothing of note," she said.

"You're blushing." David chided.

"I am not. I do not blush," Anna said curtly.

"No, of course you don't," David grinned.

"Did you need something?" Anna asked.

"Mrs. Morgan wanted to know how many to plan for, for dinner tonight."

"Oh," she nodded absently. "I'll be out tonight."

"So, how is the tutoring coming along?" David asked.

Tutoring was the cover story she and Gus had created in order to justify the amount of time they spent together. She had learned much from him, as he loved to share his knowledge, so it might easily have been the truth had their conversations done more than occasionally drift toward one of the subjects she was currently studying.

Anna sighed. "I think I have to end it."

"I thought you were having fun, I thought you liked him."

"I do like him," Anna said. "I like him very much. And he likes me. That's why I have to end it. Besides, his term at the University is almost over. It's the best time for it really."

"I see." David said. "Do you have a plan?"

"It's still in progress." Anna replied, fiddling mindlessly with her locket.

David folded his arms and nodded. "You will keep in touch wont you?" he asked, clearing his throat.

"David," she soothed as she crossed the room. "I'm not leaving."

David shrugged. "I don't know, I guess it just sounds like goodbye."

She said leaning in to kiss him on the cheek. "I will always be a part of your life, David. I promise."


Chapter 20 - We All Fall Down

"Are we getting ourselves lost again?" Anna Asked Gus as the car turned on to an unfamiliar street.

"I have a surprise for you." Gus said.

The surprise was a modestly sized green house with brown shutters near the edge of town. The lights were on, and the smell of chicken, butter, spices and fresh baked bread, grew stronger as they approached the front door.

"Who lives here?" Anna asked.

"I do," Gus said as he opened the front door and motioned for her to enter. "The publisher accepted my proposal," he helped her with her coat then hung it on a set of hooks near the front door before doing the same with his own hat and coat. His Jacket he laid over the back of the sofa. "And since I can write from anywhere, I've decided to stay a while longer, at least a year anyway. After you," he said, motioning toward the dining area just beyond the small living room. "I signed the lease on Tuesday. It's perfect really. Fully furnished, decent neighborhood and it's quiet, a must for writing. And for a little extra, Mrs. Tuttle my landlady, keeps up on the cleaning and is even willing to prepare a meal every now and again." He took a strong breath in through his nose. "It smells wonderful doesn't it?"

Anna nodded

"So what do you think?" he asked

Anna wasn't sure how to respond. In her mind she had envisioned a quiet restaurant, light conversation and a casual it's been nice knowing you, wish you well, we can never see each other again. "It's a very nice house," she said after a moment.

"I'm glad you think so," Gus said retrieving a bottle of wine and two glasses from a side table. "Is something wrong?" he asked as he poured.

"Am I that easy to read?"

"You have your moments," he smiled. "But for the most part, no, you're quite the enigma but your brow is furrowed. I gather you're upset about something," he said handing her a glass of wine and taking a drink of his own.

She took a sip then set her glass on the table. "I'm afraid I can't see you anymore, Gus. I'm sorry. I suppose I should have found a more tactful way to tell you. I'm sorry for that too."

"I see," said Gus. "What brought this on?"

"I've been thinking a lot about us. I really like you Gus, and I didn't mean for that to happen. I wanted us to be friends, to be lovers, but I didn't expect to fall in love with you. So, I think it's best to end things now, before things go to far, before they become... complicated."

"You're in love with me." Gus said. "Are you sure?"

"Are you trying to be difficult?" Anna scowled.

Gus chuckled. "I'm just trying to figure out if I've done something incredibly right or horribly wrong. Give me a moment." He finished his drink and set the empty glass on the table next to hers. "I never asked you to love me. Never expected that you even might, so few people actually know me. The idea that someone could be in love with me has me just a bit... taken aback."

"I think you're missing the point here," Anna said. "It was never my intention to become emotionally attached to you. I'm sorry if that seems cruel, but there's just no place for that kind of relationship in my life. I'm sorry."

"I've always admired your honesty," Gus said as he took off his glasses, set them on the table and loosened his tie. "It's a little bit like a knife to the heart this time."

"I understand," Anna turned away from him, and her emotions. "I'm sorry," she said and paced into the living room.

"Tell me what would change your mind," he said.

Live forever, she wanted to say. She reached her hand to her locket, but her thoughts turned to Argus. She knew she'd been lucky to elude his judgments for this long. As long as she was under the sovereignty of Argus she could never allow herself to fall in love with a mortal. She regretted now killing the immortal in the blue blazer who had offered her an escape from Argus. Ultimately she knew she had made the right decision, but wondered if there weren't other, less deranged immortals in the world that lived free from the dominion of Argus.

She shook her head. "Some things just aren't meant to be," she said, vacant. "I'm sorry."

"Stop apologizing," he said, stern. "You come off as being so uninhibited, so impetuous, so free. But you're not are you? You're just... selfish."

She turned to argue his point then decided against it. It was better that he hate her, it would make for a much cleaner break. "Yes, I suppose I am," she said turning away from him again.

"Forgive me," he said coming to stand behind her.

"There's nothing to forgive," she said.

"Anna, don't so this. I'm not your enemy. Please don't shut me out." He slipped one arm around her shoulder, the other around her waist and embraced her. She tried to push his arms away, but it was useless, despite her strength she didn't have the leverage to free herself from his grasp.

The truth was, she didn't want to fight him. She didn't want to be free of him. It was bliss to be in his arms. That she could not have him hurt worse than any pain she had ever felt. Agony and delight twisted and toyed with her, filling her heart with joy, even as it tore it completely in two.

"Please, let me go," she said, fighting back her tears.

"I won't," he said softly, sincerely. "Not now, not ever." He kissed her ear, her cheek, and her neck then moved around to face her, still keeping her in his arms.

He wiped a tear from her cheek with his thumb tasting it with a kiss. He kissed her forehead, her right cheek and then her left. He kissed her chin then the corner of her mouth.

She met his eyes, a deep blue stormy sea. She'd never wanted anything in her life as much as she wanted him. Every thought and every care in the entire world faded into nothingness as they gazed into each other's eyes. After a moment she realized that he had abandoned his hold on her. He took a step back from her. She took a step forward. The corner of his mouth lifted just the tiniest fraction, hers followed suit. He leaned in to kiss her. She kissed him back.

He was her only thought. He pulled her into his arms as she wrapped hers around him, tangling her fingers through his hair. Each touch was ecstasy to her. The savory sweet taste of his lips, mixed with wine was heavenly, the heady scent of his skin made her dizzy from excitement. Her will to resist was gone. She had to have him. She pulled at his shirt with one hand, and her own with the other. There was purpose in her urgency nestled deep within her joy filled broken heart, but to give it thought she knew would bring her world, her fantasy, crashing down.

He pulled her toward the hallway, toward the bedroom, but she redirected him toward the couch. She fumbled chaotic with his buttons, nervous and hurried. He took hold of her hand, smiled and gently kissed her fingers.

"We have time," he said softly.

He was more than just a considerate lover; they shared a connection and each move he made felt as if it were meant solely for her pleasure. Not that he wasn't enjoying himself, but his movements, though passionate were also very controlled, and intentional.

As the intensity of emotion and sensation grew, something peculiar began to happen. For the first time in her life, she wanted to bite. Try as she might, calming her senses became a hopeless feat. It would have been like trying to deny the fact that they were making love at all. She couldn't let him see her that way so she closed her eyes and held him close to her. It took every ounce of self-control she had to resist the temptation to sink her aching fangs into the soft warm flesh of his chest, his shoulders, his ears and neck. Venom began to drip from the tips of her razor sharp teeth, as her pleasure intensified, until she could not contain herself any longer and she came in an intense explosion of pure euphoria.

She felt as if the world had been spinning very fast then suddenly slowed to almost a stop as every muscle in her body, consumed with tension only moments earlier relaxed all at once. She took slow deep breaths to catch her breath and after a moment she was finally able to calm her senses.

When she finally dared to open her eyes again she caught sight of a small, iridescent drop of red on his shoulder. Venom. She wiped it away with her finger and excused herself to the bathroom, wrapping herself in his shirt.

She eyed the smear of red on her fingertips very carefully. She loosed her vision examining it carefully with her immortal vision. She had to be sure.

There are two types of venom in the immortal world. The first every immortal possesses, it's red in color, slightly more orange than blood but unless they were compared side by side could easily be dismissed as such. When injected into the blood stream it deadens pain, replacing it with sensations of pleasure and calm. When ingested, even in small amounts as she'd recently learned from David, it induced sleep.

The other kind of venom was exceedingly rare, though it was a trait she had been told that every Elite possessed. It was an iridescent golden color, and was primarily for the metamorphic reproduction of their kind.

Jonas had told them that until she and Meline, he had never even heard of an immortal born of the blood that wasn't a pure blooded immortal. Maybe that was another reason they had been allowed existence by Argus, because they were an anomaly.

She reached into her mouth, running a finger over her palate gently milking her venom ducts. Warm gold, with just a hint of red, dripped from her eyetooth. Her heart, along with her entire body sank as she examined the shimmer of gold, rubbing it between her fingers. She sat on the edge of the toilet, turned the faucet on and let the water wash it all away.

Tears came even before she could identify the emotion behind them. She had the power to give him immortality with a single, simple bite. Based solely on her physical reaction as they made love it was something they both wanted, whether he was conscious of it or even able to accept the idea, he was a very grounded in known reality type of person.

This was not a circumstance, a choice or a responsibility she was prepared for.  To give Gus immortality would at best make her an enemy of Argus, as well as Jonas though it was far more likely that they would be hunted, found and destroyed. If compassion had it's say, she wouldn't be forced to watch or to do the deed herself as others had in the past. Although, she did have to consider that others had found a way to evade Argus, if she were lucky, her and Gus might have a chance at finding that same freedom. But would David be safe? Would Meline?

She washed away her tears, cleaned herself up and smoothed her tousled hair back into place. Then she shut off the water and dried her hands and face as she decided now was not the time to think about any of this.

It was too cruel a notion for her love beaten heart to wish that she had never met Gus Ambrose, but it was too late now. The best option she could think of was to love him with all her heart for as long as she could. She knew it wouldn't be long, and she knew she was being selfish, but she didn't care. Their relationship was cursed by time. She figured they might have five years together, maybe ten before her lack of aging forced her to move on, but what was five years? It was nothing and she wasn't going to let the inevitable bring her grief. She was going to make the best of the very short time they had together, and unless a better option came along, that was her decision.

She shut off the light and left the bathroom.

She found Gus in the kitchen, wearing only his black trousers, standing at the stove, picking at the roasted chicken that had been kept warm for them in the oven.

He smiled at her from across the kitchen, quickly reaching for a towel to wipe his mouth. "Are you all right?" he said, his smiling expression fading quickly into concern.

"I think so. I'm trying to decide if this is the best or worst day of my life," she said, forcing back her tears. "Nothing has gone according to my plans, and I'm more than just a little terrified of what might happen next."

"I understand," he sighed. "I am quite undoubtedly in love with you as well."


(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart